buskupan

Wait, What? Ep. 107: Hardly Working

Jeff Lester

Australians
Australian, as she is spoke–from All-New X-Men #1, by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen

So, I am loathe to admit it…but I totally did that thing where I was running under the gun and so the show notes have a certain je ne sais LEAVE FIFTY THOUSAND IN THE TRASH CAN AT EAST ENTRANCE OF CENTRAL PARK OR SHE IS DEAD quality to them.

Nonetheless, after the jump: show notes!

0:00-4:09:  Greetings!  Opening remarks with just a hint of foreshadowing.  Also, thanks to the generosity of listeners, Jeff has read some Marvel NOW! titles (his first current Marvel titles in several months), and that ends up having a pretty big influence on this week’s podcast. (And sorry for the hiss and crackle there are the very intro–I assure you it doesn’t return.)
4:09-14:09:  In fact, after running down the issues we’ve read ( and as Graeme points out, it really was quite a bumper week for new comics) and get right into discussing some of the overall tone to the Marvel NOW! books.
14:09-20:24: Moving from the tone of Marvel editorial in the Marvel NOW! books, we steer into a bit of the ol’ meta, and talk about the recent news regarding scheduling and art chores on Uncanny Avengers.
20:24-42:09: And because Jeff has now read Uncanny Avengers #1, we talk about that issue a bit. Also? Captain America–when does he work?  Jeff doesn’t really know, but he’s going to talk about it, anyway.
42:09-43:53: Foreshadowing has come to pass!  Tech disaster!  It’s stuff we should edit out but we’re not going to because, uh, of the candor.  Yeah, that’s it! We’re candid!
43:53-51:29: We get back to talking about what we were talking about (Captain America and the Avengers movie), which Graeme uses as a segue to talk about Avengers Assemble #9 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Stefano Caselli.
51:29-51:52: Intermission one! (of one?)
51:52-1:19:10:  And we are back to talk about All-New X-Men #1 by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen.  Who liked it less?  We’re still not sure, but there is a ton of stuff we didn’t like.
1:19:10-1:26:14:  Iron Man #1 by Kieron Gillen and Greg Land!  We are split on this one, but there are things liked by the person who didn’t like it much and things disliked by the person who overall liked it fine..
1:26:14-2:19:54:  Fantastic Four #1 by Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley!  Graeme has read it; Jeff has not. Come for the observations about the FF, stay for our talk about “working harder” as a cornerstone of creative criticism. And what do we really need to have a good superhero comic?  Plot? Motivation? Characterization? “Hard work”?  There is discussion about these very important ideas…and then there is even more shit-talking about Brian Bendis. Also, there is discussion about an AvX #6: Infinite, and quick takes on A+X #1 (Jeff), Saga #7 (Graeme), Batman #14 (Graeme), Suicide Squad #14 (Graeme), Batgirl #14 (Graeme), Saucer Country #9 (Graeme), Zaucer of Zilk #2 (Graeme), and Amazing Spider-Man #698 (Graeme, and with possible spoilers), 2000 AD Prog #1809 (both of us), the brilliant “Choose Your Own Xmas” by Al Ewing and John Higgins from Prog #2012 (Jeff), and Tune by Derek Kirk Kim. (Also, Jeff forgot to talk about Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic but he should have because it was easily the Marvel NOW! book he enjoyed the most.
2:19:54-end:  Closing comments! Since this is getting released the week of Thanksgiving, what are Graeme and Jeff grateful for? Some of the choices are a bit odd (Misfits, really?)  and a bit vague, but it’s a good note on which to end the podcast…and gives me hope that we can totally get Graeme to take his holiday spirit to absolutely insane levels as the holiday season kicks into gear.

This fine episode should be available to those Whatnauts with access to iTunes or the show’s RSS feed.  Otherwise, you are welcome to give it the ol’ audio once-over below:

Wait, What? Ep. 107: Hardly Working.

We’re not recording this week, what with Thanksgiving and all, which means no podcast next week, but…that just gives you more of a chance to catch up with the 100+ episodes we currently have available to you free of charge, yeah?  As always, we hope you enjoy and thank you for listening!

61 Responses to “ Wait, What? Ep. 107: Hardly Working ”

  1. I thought this week was a skip week, and yet heres a new episode! Oh happy day! And its all bitching about Marvel NOW! Even better :P

    Re: creators not working hard enough
    My impression has been when people bitch about creators not working hard enough the subtext is: “if only Marvel would hire me to write this comic”.
    But that may say more about me than it does about anyone else.

    Re: how Australians sound
    I’m Australian, and my personal experience is that Australian speech isn’t that different from American, except occasionally we switch back and forth between using English words for things (flat and/or apartment, lift and/or elevator, etc.). Addressing people as ‘mate’ is nowhere near as common as you might think it is. Of course you see variations in different subcultures, the same way rednecks (at least on tv) speak differently, but the dialogue Jeff was describing still sounded really weird to me (though using ‘bro’ a lot doesnt strike me as that weird if you’re talking about 20-somethings who live near a beach).

    Re: Avengers Assemble
    That sounds hilarious! If I had much-beloved podcast I would totally get one of my listeners to send me the code to get around my Marvel boycott :P

    Happy thanksgiving, whenever that is (we don’t have it down here so I have no idea). And thanks for another great ep :)

  2. Clarkey,

    that fella in the sunglasses hat is a little too North American though… Aussie winters aren’t that cold!

  3. Have you guys noticed how since Astonishing X-Men debuted all those years back, that Wolverine’s new yellow costume has never been depicted consistently since? The belts, where the X’s go on the costume, whether or not it has tiger striping on the ribs, whether the boots are his old school point ones, some new ribbed ones, or whether they’re combat-style lace-ups?

    The reason I point this out is because I think Captain America’s new one is well on the way to overtake Wolverine’s in the most inconsistently drawn costume category, only a month into Marvel Now. They can’t even agree about whether the wings attached to the side like before or drawn on the helmet.

  4. The “Hard Work” discussion remings me of a Lou Pinella anecdote. A pitcher was struggling and had walked a couple batters. Lou came out and the pitcher said he was trying his best. Lou responded, “Son, I can get a truck driver to try, I need you to throw strikes.”

  5. I would certainly like to think that the Marvel writers (i.e. Architects) and artists are giving their employers and readers 100% towards creating great characters and stories. Of course they are. Their careers and reputations depend upon it. However, deadlines can interfere with those goals. Sometimes you just run out of time. I think Cassiday’s poor art in Uncanny Avengers reflects that. Sometimes you have to turn in what you have because you’ve simply run out of time.

  6. Thanks for the “show what is that? oh, nothing back to note” show notes!

    I’m jumping in as I’m listening to the part of the discussion about working hard or hard enough. I kind of unpacked this in two ways.

    The first is that the reader who feels this way is really wanting more to see that the creators care at least as much as they do about the characters/story/medium (the supposition for this is that the type of readers who would have this discussion are one who care very, very, very much). It’s of the “if they cared, they’d not have overlooked X or Y.”

    Yeah, I totally made the X arm gesture there. Complete with dropped shoulder.

    The second is that though we all have the sense that we, too, could write these comics, we really want to see someone _better than we are_ do it. Perhaps I’m pulling out my own soapbox to stand upon, but this seems related to the whole crowdsourced-media internet fallacy. I once attended a talk where the then-head of Ning crowed how great it was that each user could compile media feeds and “you can be your own editor”. Look, I don’t want to be my own editor; I want someone smarter, better, and with a better ability to evaluate truth claims and value to sort the wheat from the chaff. Similarly, we want writers and artists who do a demonstrably better job than we (imagine we) could. And if you don’t see that, it’s kind of a betrayal. Especially if you’ve paid for the damn comic.

    If none of that made sense, just pretend it was the sound of a leaf blower.

  7. This discussion reminds me of some ideas I heard Tim Callahan and Chad Nevett (in response to listener feedback) talk about on their Splash Page podcast a few years ago. The Marvel Architects in particular (with maybe the exception of Hickman) often lapse into “company men”/”fan fiction” mode. And what’s really striking is that there’s very little difference between them and their audience, which adds to the “fan fiction”/”Hey, *I* could write this stuff!” feel. If you think about someone like Alan Moore… or an editor like Julie Schwartz… or a writer/editor/show-runner like Stan Lee… what you see are creative types who were vastly unique both from everyone else in their field and, more importantly, from their audience. But someone like Matt Fraction or Bendis or Aaron? Sorry, but however talented they usually/sometimes are, they seem like “one of us” both in terms of their personalities, writing, approach, etc. I know I couldn’t do as good of a job as Bendis, usually, but he comes from a place that’s so familiar to me and everyone else that the whole scene just becomes tiring and inherently “pessimistic” from a creative point. I’d rather entirely new types of people who were committed to the task would be handed these comics.

  8. Because I can’t help but put two comments on every one of these posts

    Re: marvel comics is nothing but wrestling style heel-turns
    Heres a short list of marvel heel-turns that I can remember
    Iron Man going bad in Civil War (let’s not pretend he wasn’t)
    Daredevil setting up an evil ninja hotel in Shadowlands
    Bucky coming back from the dead and being an evil assassin in Winter Soldier
    Bruce Banner going evil and making the island of doctor moroe in Jason Arron’s Hulk #1
    Dr Doom turning joining the FF
    Reed Richards turning evil in Ultimate Avengers
    All the characters that turned evil in Fear Itself (Thing, Hulk, can’t remember any others)
    Loki turning good after being reborn as a child
    Namor turning “good” by hanging out with the X-men
    Magneto turning good/evil every other year
    there was a fake out with the Nick Fury LMD at the beginning of Secret Avengers
    And the Cyclopse stuff Recently

    I think this has a lot to do with the Screen writing mechanics Jeff always talk about. Because simply fighting a villain with an interesting gimmick no longer cuts it everyone either has to fight their best friend or someone connected with their origin.

    I guess turning someone evil every so often is better than constantly revising origin stories to have connections to new bad guys (Haha Bruce Wayne! I’m your secret brother you never knew you had!)

  9. I feel like they were in a tight spot with Captain America in the Avenger’s movie. His status quo is completely different from what it was in his movie, so they need to develop that, but they probably want to save that real development for his upcoming solo sequel, so he is just kind of stuck in a void until then.

  10. I feel the Cap sequel will have to prove what Evans can do. Like Colin said, he’s finally starring in his status quo: Youthful yet a noble relic, cut off from everything he knew and loved (unless it comes back from the dead, hmmm …). That’s where we should get a script for Evans to work with.

    Iron Man #1 was as bland in the writing as the art, I thought. The Iron Man flies and muses opening, then the nightclub scene, were such pointless constructs. It was like actors on a bare stage, you just saw through everything to the words the writer needed to put in their mouths. Start the book with the third scene, the woman on the run in Argentina, and you lose nothing but pretentious blibbity blob and the too-familiar reminder that Tony, he’s a ladies’ man.

    This podcast, on the other hand, was a technicolor delight (at least, the first hour-forty, which is where I am so far), so thanks very much for giving us another fine episode.

    (And to prevent this comment from going more out of control, I’ll just say that Dave Clarke’s and WillB’s observations are really smart and dead-on. Do people still say “cosign” in comment threads? That was a thing, right?)

  11. I wouldn’t say “let’s recruit Havok comes out of nowhere.” The first issue of Peter David’s X-Factor has Cyclops and Xavier making a big deal about recruiting Havok, and giving that same type of tongue bathing about why he’s the man for the job, so there is some precedent for it. Plus he did lead X-Factor for a while in a job that was part public relations, part superteam leader, and part government liason, so there is that.

  12. Listening to you guys talk about ALL-NEW X-MEN, I returned to a thought I have often, which is that I think writers get too much of the credit when a comic is good, and too much of the blame when a comic is not so good. The artist carries the primary responsibility of the storytelling in a comic, not the writer. The time-stopping scene is so bewildering, to me, because Immonen fails to get across what’s going on more than Bendis. Bendis’s script may be lousy, and the evidence of the finished comic suggests that it wasn’t inspired, but we don’t read the script, we read a completed comic. It sounds like the confusion over the FANTASTIC FOUR scene with the Thing is a similar situation, although I didn’t read that comic.

    I may be wrong. I do have a larger feeling that because it’s a visual medium, artists ultimately have more control over the authorship of a comic than a writer, and they’re undervalued by readers. For instance, BATMAN is a blockbuster comic right now because of Greg Capullo, but Scott Snyder seems to get the lion’s share of the credit even though he didn’t sell nearly as many Batman comics before Capullo came along.

  13. Of course Marvel is all about wrestling-style heel-turns. The second act of Spider-Man is all about Peter Parker fighting a wrestler and using pseudo-macho talk. DC is all about spectacle. Superman is basically a circus strongman whose primary job is to wow you with feats of strength.

    – G

  14. 1) He was one of the few members after the original X-Men to be leader of the X-Men in Australia. He lead the X-Men through their most persecuted, outlaw time and made the tough decisions to help them survive.

    2) He was leader of his “mutate” team in Genosha and was pretty good at being leader. Yes, it sucks that he was on the wrong side, but it is interesting that even after the Siege Perilous (something that focuses your main traits and makes you more “you”) he came out as a team leader.

    3) He became leader of X-Factor, working with the government to help mutants. He was even hand-picked by Xavier and Scott to do this because he is the most capable person to work with the Government. During his tenure, he did well in working with the government and even resisted intense brainwashing by the Black Beast by becoming a double agent and infiltrating the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants Donnie Brasco style.

    4) He became leader of another X-team when the title shifted to Mutant X. This time, he lead a group of outlaw X-Men on a parallel world and made a group of quasi-anti-heroes into real heroes before that reality collapsed.

    5) Havok became another leader of the X-Men, with Rogue, Mystique, and Iceman to save the X-Men again. He succeeded and even saved Lorna.

    6) Havok becomes team leader of the Starjammers version of the X-Men (that included Lorna and Rachel Grey) and they defeat the intergalactic warlord known as Vulcan.

    Scott has only been team leader for 2 teams, X-Factor and X-Men. Storm is a person non-grata in Black Panther and wouldn’t be the best person as their Avengers team leader. Beast wouldn’t be interested as team leader, wanting more the research, just being an Avenger, and time with SWORD. Wolverine is already headmaster of a school and a part-time Avenger and X-Man. I do not think that Marvel Boy or Firestar could lead a very sensitive X-Group. Professor X is dead. Cable would be awesome, but he’s too much of a terrorist.

    Alex is your best bet to lead a team of powerful Avengers and X-Men. He’s worked with the American Government and knows how to deal with levels of PR and the crap that comes from working for the US Government. He’s worked with the X-Men and he’s someone that they would respect as a credible leader for a team of X-Men. He’s a space-worthy asset, having current ties with the Shi’ar Empire and the Starjammers. He has ties with Wanda (dated her sister) and Rogue (lead her in two x-teams) and is well-liked by the X-community’s current leader, Wolverine. He’s commanded Captain America (at least on the parallel world) and has faced down the Beyonder and the Goblin Queen (in the same parallel world). Captain America would be a fool not to pick him as Avengers squad leader. He’s the most capable squad leader and also one of the most powerful beings on Earth.

  15. Above was a response as to why Cap picked Havok to lead the Avengers/X-Team

  16. So who is the third stock Bendis character? The comic relief guy? I was waiting for you guys to say who the third Bendis character was.

  17. It’s weird but the more you bashed All-New X-Men the more I wanted to read it. It sounds so bad that I almost don’t believe it can be real.

  18. Graeme said all of Bendis’s Avengers was a series of prologues to something that never happened. I agree, and it was also a big problem I had with Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans. Each issue was a retread of a Wolfman/Perez trope executed as the prologue to something big that never never happened.

  19. I’ve been meaning to write in to say I really dig the interstitial music. Graeme has a future in composing for elevators.

  20. Bill, if Graeme starts composing Muzak for elevators, I’m taking that sucker down all the way to hell! Rock on Graeme!

  21. When ANXM was first announced I thought it sounded like a HORRIBLE premise — you know right from the start that nothing can happen to the characters because you know they have to eventually return to the past with no memory of any events. But as I thought more (and heard you guys laughing about Iceman reacting to the fact that him as an adult is exactly the same as him as a kid) I realized I actually was interested in seeing some of the characterization play out.

    So that tells me Bendis would be perfect for this book — characters talking while nothing important happens.

    So for me the main concern is whether or not he gets the voices of the original X-Men. I thought Henry sounded okay, but there wasn’t enough interaction to judge. Don’t waste my time with your throwaway uninteresting characters. I hope #2 gives me what I want. Otherwise Stuart’s art won’t be enough to keep me paying $3.99.

  22. Good podcastery as ever! Alas, I have thoughts: Hmmm. I think the only time “working hard” should be used with regard to evaluating the worth of creative output is when a parent is considering the less than stellar offerings of their own offspring. Do comics creators want to be treated like infants is what I’m saying there. Also, Twitting, Face booking, appearing on Podcasts & conference calls, Tumbling other (more talented) people’s work and everything just short of jumping out of my cupboard to shill their offerings doesn’t count as “working hard” when it comes to writing/drawing the actual physical comic.

    Judging by The Internet Messrs McMillan & Lester are the only reviewers who actually read A-N X-M properly. Seriously, the consensus seems to be that that book was okey-dokey. Yet all the reasonable points raised by The Glimmer Twins are all the problems present in every Bendis comic ever. Everyone just seems to accept this shambolic gibberish now. I fear the real danger of bad writing is bad reading which leads to worse writing which leads to worse reading which ends up with us all back in caves going, “Bad thing happen! Bad thing stop! All good! Me make TV now!” The review of A-N X-M was antic genius of the highest order but that shouldn’t distract from the fact it was underpinned by sound critical nous. I can only remain convinced that Bendis’ work remains an embarrassment. And not of riches either. An embarrassment of embarrassments.

    Also, hang on a mo, the Boiler Suit X-Men have come from the Past of the ‘60s? Wouldn’t that make the Sophisticated Storytelling X-Men of Now in their 50s or 60s? They’re pretty limber aren’t they for a bunch of geezers. Or is the old Sliding 10-Year Timeframe in effect in which case they have come from the heady days of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s! What a different world that was! Oh, that’s right it doesn’t matter does it. “We have our ways!”

    Hey, is it today that The President “pardons” a turkey again? Does he still do that? Sometimes I wonder about you, America. But never for long and never without a hint of stunned admiration.

    Happy Thanksgiving, my American chums!

  23. “Everyone just seems to accept this shambolic gibberish now. I fear the real danger of bad writing is bad reading which leads to worse writing which leads to worse reading…”

    Hm. This is a rather unpleasant way to make your point. It’s totally terrific if you don’t care for Brian “Michael” Bendis. It’s very fashionable, in fact, to not like his work. I, in fact, sometimes don’t care for it myself!

    But to suggest that those of us who do (on occasion) enjoy his comics are dummies or cavemen or “bad readers” is uncool.

    It’s a big world. Don’t read/watch/listen to things you don’t like. Read/watch/listen to things you do. You’ll live longer and have smoother skin.

    I liked All New X-Men and Fantastic Four just fine, but I totally get why some didn’t care for them.

  24. @RF: I didn’t intend to name call and I didn’t intend to suggest people shouldn’t like what they like. Obviously since this is what you read then my own writing is bit rubbish on occasion. I’ll attempt to clarify while, hopefully, avoiding further offence.

    The cavemen shtick was an exaggeration of where the bad writing will end up if it isn’t held to account by reviewers. See, I didn’t actually call *anyone* a “caveman”; it was (allegedly) humorous hyperbole about craft. As for “bad readers”, I meant bad reading on the part of *reviewers*. No, I don’t think any reader can be a “bad reader” but, yes, a reviewer can be a “bad reader”. Yes, people like what they like and that’s alright because I, too, am super-reasonable at heart. But for reviewers to continue to ignore the lamentable technical deficiencies which infest Bendis’ work gets a bit irritating after over a decade.

    I like the way you saw right through me though, because it’s true – I don’t care for Brian Bendis because I am susceptible to peer pressure and the vagaries of fashion. I am very easily swayed, so they tell me. Okay, it’s nothing to do with his work, it’s entirely personal. Heck, I’m probably jealous too.

    “It’s a big world. Don’t read/watch/listen to things you don’t like. Read/watch/listen to things you do. You’ll live longer and have smoother skin.”

    See, I don’t like this one. Sure it sounds really reasonable and all every time someone trots it out but it’s a tad solipsistic, no? And by “a tad” I mean “very”. I’m okay pointing out where I think people are doing a bad job. It might encourage people to do better. People could argue against me and I might change my mind. Raising questions causes things to happen. I find ignoring stuff doesn’t actually improve things. What you might perceive as negativity in the short term can, in fact, have positive results in the long run. After all, if you don’t like it when I do it, hey, you just gave yourself some good advice!

    Read what thou wilt – that shall be the whole of The Law!

  25. John, your clarifications are sensible and well-put. Where I quibble (politely, I hope) is in the idea that this is a binary proposition. That the type of thing you don’t enjoy is something that is inherently bad for the future of the craft, and must be repeatedly hammered until the critical consensus renders it extinct. Darwinism applied to taste (or something).

    And this is where the “read whatcha like” idea comes in. It’s not meant to dismiss the role of criticism at all — I’m open and sympathetic to anyone’s reasonable thoughts on the crappiness of Mr. Bendis. However, the prevailing notion seems to be that he is single-handedly steering the Good Ship Comics into a charybdis of repetitive dialogue and aimless plotting.

    I feel strongly that there’s room enough in comics (even mainstream comics) for the type of writing he does. I think comics would be poorer if he chose to heed his detractors and go into real estate. Comics is also big enough to include stories by writers who DESPISE his approach, and actively shape their work as an antidote and course-corrector.

    And finally, if there was a snotty tone to the “big world” thing, it’s because it does seem like some of our smartest commentators go out of their way to read/review things they are predisposed to vehemently dislike. This leaves a great many comics they might like VERY MUCH without their valuable analysis, and a blanket of bitterness and despair hanging over the whole scene of thoughtful comicstalk.

    That leaves these unfashionable comics — and that term was not aimed at you AT ALL, John) to be somnambulantly and faintly praised by uninteresting and uninterested reviewers who comment on costume continuity and “impactfulness.”

    I dunno, maybe everyone needs to try harder?

  26. I think there are two different, but related, questions at play here:

    1) Should people who try hard to poor result get extra consideration on account of all the work they put into it?

    2) When laziness or a lack of effort appear to be the reason for the poor result, should someone be called on it?

    I think the answer to #1 is no. Putting in the work is a baseline, not an accomplishment, but because it’s a baseline, falling below it (#2) is deserving of criticism. If the artist in question has done good work before and the only thing stopping them from doing so again is taking shortcuts or not putting in the grunt work, then I don’t think pointing that out is necessarily on the same spectrum as giving out Es for Effort.

  27. I think the term “Lazy” is apt for a lot of big two comics (and plenty of creator-owned comics, but they are easier to spot from a distance), and although the term may have been around longer, for me it’s an identifiable style that goes back to earlier in the decade – when Warren Ellis gave up on his big plans for the future of comics and scurried back to Marvel for superhero work. He said it was ok for him to take on the extra work load as he could write the books without using his full brain, somewhat on auto-pilot. The results weren’t great – a bunch of decompressed/padded comics, with one or two crazy ideas stretched across 4-6 issues, not much happened in them, character was readily ignored (as was character continuity).
    It wasn’t just Ellis – it was at this point that Bendis just became a bag of bad traits, and soon after Marvel’s output felt more like a product than ever before. They had creators on long runs promising everything would pay off, but it became very clear that the jigsaw pieces just weren’t going anywhere in particular – what you really got was a book with four lazily drawn pages of Wolverine walking down some stairs.
    The poster child for the Lazy Marvel Comic would have to be Fear Itself – no theme, nothing made any real sense, nothing happened, characters acted out of character, and regardless of how hard they actually worked on it, Matt Fraction and Tom B didn’t sound like they cared about the book at all in interviews. Uncanny Avengers would be another example – Remender may have worked hard, but it’s a lazy comic. Did it convince anyone of anything that happened within? For a DC example, just pick the majority of the Nu52 releases. All books that read like people went with their first idea, didn’t give anything long term thought, and stuff happens just because.
    On the art front, Lazy is when good storytelling is ignored in favour of just drawing the panels in order. Thankfully, this is going out of fashion.
    If Lazy feels too harsh, maybe they could be called Cocaine Comics? Lots of frantic work, heaps of time spent perfecting, but it comes out sounding like Oasis’ Be Here Now. Joe Casey’s Uncanny X-Men run fits in there – and I think he said he was on it a bit whilst writing that run – lot’s of characters, lot’s of stuff being said, some big ideas but not much happens, the conclusion isn’t satisfying and it all barely hangs together.
    Lazy or Cocaine – either way, if the end comics reading experience isn’t good, nothing else matters.

    Also, as an Australian, I’ll have to disagree with Dave Clarke about the usage of “Mate” – maybe we drink in different bars, but I hear and use it quite a lot in day to day talk.
    I’m more shocked by the artist’s depiction of the Gold Coast (although I’m sure they mean Surfer’s Paradise, specifically), and it’s fashions, rather than the tin-ear dialogue – it looks a bit like shooting in one place and pretending it’s in another. Doesn’t feel like it’s set there.

  28. Great podcast, guys. The infinity gems are mentioned somewhere in AvX (a crossover issue of New Avengers or Avengers where they old Illuminati meet up one last time I think). They discuss using them, but ultimately proclaim that using them could be as destructive as the phoenix. The implication was that the gems could corrupt them like the phoenix did with the x-men.

    As for all-new x-men, it did have major holes, but comparatively, it’s far worse than Uncanny Avengers. While I agree that the Havok push comes from nowhere, continuity-wise it makes some sense. However, Storm still would make more sense as the leader if only because integration instead of isolation was the reason she broke away from the x-men not too long ago. Also, Cyke kept her around on his extinction team to “watch him him” and make sure he didn’t turn into Magneto. She’s been like his more stoic peanut gallery for forever so it works far better for her to lead Uncanny Avengers (especially since Bendis made a big deal about her becoming an avenger for all of 3 issues) if only as a criticism of his actions.

  29. @JohnK (UK) indeed the President pardoned a turkey, as is tradition, yet can’t reach peace in the Middle East (maybe only for a fragile cease fire), or keep people from starving in this world (which makes pardoning a turkey seem cruel). I’m thankful for a lot, and none of it has to do with the current state of the comics industry.

    I’m beginning to think the reasons why I find comic books so illiterate and shallow these days has as much to do with the state of the world and economy as much as the piss poor writing and art. There is too much injustice in this real world to think some lame ass super hero story will make it all better. We should all be focused on the inequity in this world, and injustice, and poverty and not bury our heads in the sand of the corporate comic books, which do nothing to advance our humanity.

  30. Ask yourself, would you rather read something written by Brian Michael Bendis or Doestoevsky? Your response will tell you all you need to know, especially if your response is “Who is Doestoevsky?”

  31. Yeah, yeah, Dostoyevsky. Goddamn spell correct.

  32. Well Robert G it is a big world out there and President Obama is but President of but a small corner of it. To expect succinct solutions to global problems that have vexed humanity since forever might be asking for too much.

    Also, to say that comic books (corporate or otherwise) do nothing to advance our humanity is to downplay the transformative power of fiction (illustrated or otherwise) and the inspiration and moral triumph that is codified in our spandex strongmen and women.

  33. I don’t listen to this podcast, not because of the people involved, but because I don’t keep up with the topic and it’s a bit pointless for me to listen to two guys talk about something I don’t have much interest in. But, I do like reading the comments because it gives me a sense of what people are thinking and what they like.

    So, this comment is based entirely on reading the thread. I think this idea of judging effort isn’t a good road to go down unless we’re talking about something like our own children (kudos to Mr. John K on that one) or an activity where effort is what’s on display, like sports. With comics, it might take one guy 5 minutes to lay out a page and other all day to produce it. But what if the guy who does it in 5 minutes has 40 years of experience? Or what if he’s particularly talented with lay-outs? There are too many factors at play to judge effort based solely on the finished product.

    With Bendis, I feel like he’s up for criticsm due to the phenomenal potential he showed early in his career with stuff like Goldfish. But is he being lazy now or did he just hit the ceiling of his potential? Or are the ideas he has not fit for his corporate job, but his lesser ideas get him a paycheck? Who knows.

    Anyway, I’m not the best guy to comment because I don’t know what metrics are used for superhero comics. I can say I’ve been reading Daredevil, and that book seems great. I feel like any deficiency with it is due to my exhaustion, not the craft of the guys making it.

  34. @ Robert G: I wouldn’t say that comics are completely without merit. When I was a kid, especially during the holidays, were nice little respites between being shuttled around family houses. I loved getting engrossed in the narratives and reading about the fantastic moral men and women going against injustice and criminals who would harm innocent people. It helped reinforce a basic morality in me as a child and it allowed me to see the possibilities of “design as storytelling.”

    There is horror and violence and injustice throughout the world. Even when comics were great, these things still remain and continue to remain. But the best that comics can do is reflect that world and help give the possibility of a better world. Superman himself is a construction of trying to show how the horrors of everyday life can be overcome by a moral and strong man.

    – Gary

  35. “But is he being lazy now or did he just hit the ceiling of his potential?”

    I think the former is far more common. I mean, it’s pretty clear that editors at the Big 2 function more like talent facilitators than actual editors. It’s hard to believe that anyone is pointing out flaws or problems when the same ones crop up over and over again in a writer’s work. If there’s no one pushing you to test your limits or challenge your habits, it’s pretty common for people’s work to plateau in quality and variety.

    Mike

  36. “It’s hard to believe that anyone is pointing out flaws or problems when the same ones crop up over and over again in a writer’s work.”

    This assumes that the problems you find cropping up repeatedly in any given writer’s work are perceived as problems by the editor and, by extension, the entire world.

    Comics companies don’t need to spend money on “talent facilitators.” If editors at these companies aren’t editing, they wouldn’t have jobs.

    And who’s to say these editors aren’t pushing their writers a great deal? They may just be pushing them in the exact opposite direction you’d like them to go.

  37. “This assumes that the problems you find cropping up repeatedly in any given writer’s work are perceived as problems by the editor and, by extension, the entire world.”

    Not really. There are always issues of personal preference, of course, but in the thousands of years that human beings have been telling stories, certain truths have been uncovered. Big plot holes are big plot holes, for example, whether or not the audience cares about them. Characters who all sound exactly the same when they talk is also bad writing, again, even if audience members convince themselves it doesn’t matter.

    Let me give you an example. Years ago, Marvel did a big
    Spider-Man crossover called THE OTHER. As part of the story, it was revealed that Peter Parker was dying. However, at no point in the story did they ever explain or even define what the hell was killing him. It was some sort of medical condition but beyond that, the reader was given no other information. That’s bad writing. It may not have prevented any particular reader from enjoying that crossover, but it was still bad writing.

    “Comics companies don’t need to spend money on “talent facilitators.” If editors at these companies aren’t editing, they wouldn’t have jobs.”

    Unless you’re a comic pro or work at one of those companies, you’d don’t have any more insight into what their editors do than I do. I certainly hope you’re not arguing that Marvel and DC don’t have any history of doing really stupid and even counterproductive stuff, ’cause that would be crazy.

    As for what editors do, can you come up with an example where the work of one of Marvel’s current writers is changed or affected AT ALL by which editor he works with?

    Mike

  38. “Not really.”

    My counter-argument is: I like Brian Bendis’s writing. I don’t think all his characters sound the same, and if there are plot-holes in his work, they aren’t large enough that I notice or care. I don’t believe I’m “convincing myself” of anything, but if you choose to believe that, goferit.

    “Unless you’re a comic pro or work at one of those companies, you’d don’t have any more insight into what their editors do than I do.”

    You’re right. Neither of us knows what the hell he’s talking about.

    I’m just using common sense, though. Why would they have editors if all the editors do is give high fives and thumbs ups?

    “As for what editors do, can you come up with an example where the work of one of Marvel’s current writers is changed or affected AT ALL by which editor he works with?”

    This is funny. Most excitable comics fans get mad when editors interfere with the writers, but you seem to want more of it! In any event, sure, I’ll play along: Matt Fraction’s writing under Wacker/Amanat feels much cleaner and leaner than his work under Mark Paniccia or Brevoort/Sankovitch. This may have nothing to do with the editors, but then again IT MIGHT.

  39. “I’m just using common sense, though. Why would they have editors if all the editors do is give high fives and thumbs ups?”

    Based on interviews I’ve heard with current pro’s, editors at the big two are more production managers than traditional editors. It’s a full time job just co-ordinating all the creative people involved and getting the books to the printer on time. Especially when some of these guys are handling a dozen books a month. I’m not privy to their work habits either, but I doubt many of them are asking for a lot of rewrites.

    Due to the nature of the medium and the deadlines involved, the ideal situation is for an editor to get a creative team they trust and let them run with it. In the cases where I have heard of rewrites, it’s usually the editors rewriting the script themselves to fit some editorial mandate. There just isn’t time in the production schedule for much back and forth to preciously fine tune a story.

  40. “Based on interviews I’ve heard with current pro’s, editors at the big two are more production managers than traditional editors.”

    I know an editor at Marvel/DC. (I don’t want to state which one because they really wouldn’t appreciate it.) They’re job is exactly like you describe it – a project manager. That’s not to diminish their job in any way. It’s just the reality of the modern comic companies.

  41. Doesn’t the idea that these days editors at the big two are just production managers go against a lot of complaints we’ve heard from creatives on their way out the door from Big Two companies?
    George Perez, John Rozum and Rob Liefeld all complained of massive editorial interference in their work at DC, matching similar complaints from Mark Waid and Greg Rucka in the years before the relaunch, or comments made by Marko Djurdjevic or Greg Rucka on their way out the door from Marvel hint to editors making creative decisions and creatives just being the hired hands.

  42. Just wanted to point out that when Henry makes his “I’m done” speech in All-new X-men, the dialogue in that scene is Stan Lee’s original dialogue from X-men #8. Present-tense Beast time travels back into the middle of an actual 1960’s X-men issue :)

  43. The folks saying that Havok’s push came from nowhere are either simply repeating what other people have said or havent read comics for too long. Havok has led X-factor and X-men teams. Not to mention his stint in Mutant X universe. It’s like comic fans simply act intentionally dim to make a point which is really disappointing to long term readers like myself.

    Aside from a few folks on the net, the overwhelming majority of people found All New X-Men to be a good first issue. It wasn’t ground breaking but it’s pretty clear that Bendis is playing the long game here. Again, except for folks that have inherent bias against Bendis (huge name writers seem to get criticized a lot, it all sounds like jealousy to me though) the issue did what it was meant to do, that being:

    1. Lay the foundation for what’s to come
    2. Establish the characters status quo

    I used to enjoy this podcast but it seems Jeff and Graeme have fallen into the existential crisis that a lot of angry fan boys on the net find themselves. You guys are better this and try and be objective going forward.

  44. I like how the case for Havok is coming down to stuff like, “remember mid-90s X-Factor, and Mutant X?”

  45. “Doesn’t the idea that these days editors at the big two are just production managers go against a lot of complaints we’ve heard from creatives on their way out the door from Big Two companies?”

    I don’t think this is mutually exclusive at all, though – from what I can tell, editors (at the big two, at least) basically keep the gears moving production-wise, which also involves passing down edicts from higher up on the chain (which is what a lot of those complaints from artists and writers at DC come down to). The editors’ job doesn’t involve, however, anything like fact-checking, or coordinating across other books to keep events in one title from conflicting with those in another (beyond a superficial “character X is being reserved for event Y” type thing). It certainly doesn’t seem to have anything to do with making sure artists and writers end up on books appropriate for their talents – one of the single biggest complaints I have regarding Marvel and DC; they see all their “big name” talent as essentially interchangeable, bringing nothing more than a sales boost to a given book – they don’t see or care that someone like Brian Bendis is better suited to writing solo characters than he is to team books, just that putting Bendis on a book will give that book a temporary sales spike… even if a different approach might produce a better book.

  46. “My counter-argument is: I like Brian Bendis’s writing.”

    And folks are entitled to like what they like. But when other folks complain about what they see as flaws in a work, “I don’t care” or “It doesn’t bother me” isn’t a valid counter-argument.

    Mike

  47. “they don’t see or care that someone like Brian Bendis is better suited to writing solo characters than he is to team books, just that putting Bendis on a book will give that book a temporary sales spike… even if a different approach might produce a better book.”

    Wait, I’m confused. When was the last time this happened? They put Bendis on Avengers in 2005. He’s just leaving now. Was that just for the sales spike?

  48. “And folks are entitled to like what they like. But when other folks complain about what they see as flaws in a work, “I don’t care” or “It doesn’t bother me” isn’t a valid counter-argument.”

    Please let’s not talk in circles. If you go back and read what I was responding to, you will see that I was not making a counter-argument to complaints about the work. I was saying that one’s view of them as flaws does not grant the work, the style, or the artist as universally “bad.”

    As I said before, I’m happy to engage people who find his stuff crummy. As I said before, I sometimes find his stuff crummy, too. What I’m arguing against is the idea that he has nothing to offer or that his approach is antithetical to good comics.

    And anyway, I’m sure you could respond to “it doesn’t bother me” to any number of complaints I might have about any number of things, and that would be all there is to say. That’s kind of how these conversations go sometimes.

    Thanks!

  49. Ben,

    I think it depends about what level of editorial you’re talking about. My friend is just a regular editor. I think their boss, or boss’s boss, makes the decisions on the stories and what plot points the book needs to hit. My friend has told me in the past the writers just come up with the dialog to string one plot point to the next. I’ll have to ask them about who makes the story decisions. I know my friend is frustrated because they have a lot of artistic talent and they’re just a PM.

  50. @Beezer: You’re half-right–present-tense Beast does travel back into a scene in the middle of Uncanny X-Men #8, but that’s not Stan Lee’s dialogue.

    Here’s the (six panel) scene from the original:

    http://i419.photobucket.com/albums/pp275/lazybastid/ScreenShot2012-11-25at54850PM.png

    and

    http://i419.photobucket.com/albums/pp275/lazybastid/ScreenShot2012-11-25at54829PM.png

    and here’s the (two page) scene from All-New X-Men #1:

    http://i419.photobucket.com/albums/pp275/lazybastid/F6B72B68-7544-4FE5-9662-311B2394ABEB-12247-00000CB05581F186.jpg

    and

    http://i419.photobucket.com/albums/pp275/lazybastid/39BFB1D7-9775-49D6-8F0A-005B6D3C569C-12247-00000CB03F500112.jpg

    (Man, I’m sure the spam filters will give me holy hell for this.) As you can see, Bendis takes a lot of cues from Lee’s dialogue and opens up the pace, but he embellishes a lot, too. (Like, a lot a lot.)

  51. @Dave. Hi. I’m curious: “Aside from a few folks on the net, the overwhelming majority of people found All New X-Men to be a good first issue.”

    If you discount the people online who communicate their opinion of the comic, how do you know that the overwhelming majority liked it? Retail sales and sell-through (not yet known anyway, right?) would suggest interest, not post-purchase enjoyment. So if you’re going to exhort Jeff and Graeme to be “better than this,” shouldn’t you explain how they, too, can learn what the overwhelming, silent majority experiences?

    I really enjoy the podcast. While I have no idea what sort of “existential crisis” our hosts may face, I don’t find them to be “angry fan boys” on the show at all. They explain why a work excites or disappoints them, and they seem to do so on the actual merits of the craft. (Certainly seems so to me, when they discuss a book I’ve also read, whether I agree with their take or not.) And god, their enthusiasm for the medium and general good humor is an upbeat, positive pleasure. From where I sit, at least.

  52. Oh dear, they aren’t having another Existential Crisis are they? That first Existential Crisis Gentle Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillion$ had was okay; well intentioned and kind of ground-breaking even. Now though it’s practically an annual event and it just devalues the whole thing. When Graeme first killed Existential Flash it was surprising and had some impact but now everybody knows it isn’t going to stick. And Infinite Existential Crisis was so terrible that the bit where Gentle Jeff tried to change reality by punching it was actually the highlight. But even then the changes were only illusory; the only reality he changed was the reality of his knuckles which soon healed and the status quo was restored again! While it isn’t a popular opinion I did enjoy the guys’ Final Existential Crisis but there’s still no excuse for that Countdown To Existential Crisis nonsense. To freshen things up they should maybe take a leaf out of Marvel’s events and just fight each other all the time.
    (I’m just joking. Please don’t fight each other all the time! That’s why I ran away to join the circus in the first place!)

  53. “What I’m arguing against is the idea that he has nothing to offer or that his approach is antithetical to good comics.”

    And who says Bendis has NOTHING to offer? Who says his approach produces NOTHING that anyone could enjoy? Who says Bendis has NEVER written a good comic? Anyone?

    So, who are you arguing with?

    Mike

  54. No one. I’m simply arguing against the idea implied by statements like this:

    [This was in response to my post about his editors not correcting what some view as unforgivable flaws in Mr. Bendis's work, and how some may not see them that way.]

    “Not really. There are always issues of personal preference, of course, but in the thousands of years that human beings have been telling stories, certain truths have been uncovered. Big plot holes are big plot holes, for example, whether or not the audience cares about them. Characters who all sound exactly the same when they talk is also bad writing, again, even if audience members convince themselves it doesn’t matter.”

    This presents a system of objective appraisal that I don’t think would work even if it were possible to construct (we’d all have to agree, right?).

    Over those thousands of years you mentioned, things like “dialogue” and “plot holes” are incredibly recent ideas, so I don’t think they’ve been codified in quite the way you suggest.

    But I do feel like we’re talking in circles, so I’ll bow out of this one now. Thanks for your thoughtful responses!

  55. I just love the point where you two guys (Jeff and Graeme) are discussing how Bendis loves to just repeat dialog, leading to Graeme stating –
    “You have to repeat yourself, twice”
    (which is funny by itself)and then Jeff follows with – “Yeah, Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

    HA.HA
    Just a polite and friendly jab at you guys. As always, great ‘show’ and I can’t wait for the next one.

  56. “And who says Bendis has NOTHING to offer? Who says his approach produces NOTHING that anyone could enjoy? Who says Bendis has NEVER written a good comic? Anyone?”

    I used to think Bendis was the hope of the industry I liked his stuff so much – Goldfish, Jinx, Fire, Fortune And Glory, Torso – the guy had an approach I thought would take the world by storm. (Well, except for that middle part in Jinx, where he decided to publish his writing portfolio. What the hell?)

    Unfortunately, when he got his chance at Marvel, he wrote like that for about 18months before giving up on the idea that plots, scenes or character arcs had to go anywhere, and just writing any old shit in the blandest possible style. (Even Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man were running low by year three, and I never bought into Alias being any kind of good – any acclaim that got was nerds discovering crime fiction with a female protagonist. I made it to the end of the second arc of Powers before giving up on that one-trick pony.
    People used to talk about how strong his dialogue was, but now he’s accused of having a tin-ear and making every character sound alike.
    His early work was also notable for it’s innovative storytelling – he experimented with layouts and techniques. Been awhile since I’ve heard that about him – last I remember is Mighty Avengers, where they tried to make a deal out of the fact he was using thought bubbles! Thought-bubbles in a comic? Outrageous!
    People might enjoy his regular output, but I reckon you’ll be looking more at the people who enjoy Doug Liman films or Stephanie Meyer novels, not people with discerning taste. (Except Chad Nevett, but I’m still waiting for his “Gotcha!” on that one). Ain’t nothing wrong with liking some trash, only when you then get antsy that some people see it for the trash it is.

    So yeah, I won’t say the guy has never written a good comic, but it’s been close to a decade since he has, so I’d at least be looking in the direction of his approach being anti-ethical to good comics, or considering that he was just the guy in the right place at the right time – as he actually teaches comics at a university, I think his output as well as his approach is a-ok for harsh critical review.

  57. Ben Lipman makes an interesting point: why does anyone, either creator or fan, make a big deal about the disappearance or reappearance of thought bubbles? First person narration captions are basically the same thing as thought bubbles. They just changed the shape of the container holding the words and writers convince themselves they’re now innovating the medium.

  58. back @Feff,

    OMG you’re right, there is a lot of embellishment there. On the other hand, if the point of the scene is to make me want to go buy a set of Marvel’s 60’s Xmen reprints then it certainly succeeded :)

  59. Lol Feff… Wanted To Buy an edit button and a cup of coffee.

  60. JohnK: At least they’re not having Secret Existential Wars. Those kind of suck. Especially when Gentle Jeff Lester started wearing all black and had to teach Graeme McMillion$ how to pee in the toilet. That was just embarrassing to read.

  61. @gary: What a charming tableau your words have painted, I may never sleep again! Cheers!

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